A/N The people who wrote these episodes came up with just tons of really great stuff for their stories. It's too bad so much of it was just used once and discarded.
"She didn't sound happy."
"I don't think 'pretty nice' is high on her list of things to be."
"Mrs. Bartowski scares the piss out of me."
"We've had a murder in Castle."
"You want me to take point?"
"No, Carina, I want Frost to take point," said Sarah. "Of course it has to be you, Hannah and I are friends, I can't be objective. I can think of a lot of things Hannah may be to you–"
Carina looked out the window, unhappy. "But 'friend' isn't one of them."
"Yes, but she's not an enemy, either, and you respect her, if nothing else." Sarah drummed her fingers on the steering wheel, impatient at the light. If this had been a company car she'd at least have had a missile to clear traffic. "Besides, I have to go get Chuck. If everyone in Castle is together in the briefing room, no one's monitoring his signal. He could be anywhere by now."
"Not given where he was, and where he was headed," said Carina, purposely vague in front of the prisoner. "All right, I'll take the case, since it's not be a cold crime scene. I hate cold crime scenes. And I want some proper groveling when I solve it without you."
"Yes, Sherlock," said Sarah, in a 'sure, sure' voice calculated to get the most out of her partner's ego. "Feel free to give Ellie a call when, I mean, if you get stuck. Or better yet, when I get back with Chuck–"
Carina sniffed. Hmmp. "He can watch you grovel, or be right down there on his knees with you, depending on how far you've poisoned his mind against me."
"I would never–!" Sarah clamped her lips together, glaring impartially at the world for letting Carina score one off of her. Well, not entirely impartially. She noticed Frost's expression in the mirror, one part sympathy, two parts…laboratory experiment. "And you! Shut it!"
Frost dropped any semblance of sympathy, and that suited Sarah just fine.
The Buy More parking lot was full, as always. "We aren't going to have to go in there, are we?" asked Carina.
Sarah drove slowly down the lane between the cars, just to draw out the suspense. "What's the matter, Carina? Afraid that Jeff and Lester have forgotten you?"
Carina could remember the creepy duo very well. "No, I'm afraid they'll remember me." She shuddered. "Good God, what is that?"
"What is what?" asked Sarah, looking the other way for a turn.
"It looked like a guy in a big green box with BM on the front. He–what the hell? What just happened?"
At a Buy More, could be anything. "I don't know, you tell me."
"A big van just pulled up in front of him, and now he's gone! We just saw a kidnapping!" She pulled out her phone.
The redhead looked up.
"That's the Buy More. You're better off not getting involved. Just…let whatever happens in the shopping center, stay in the shopping center." The car moved steadily away from whatever chaos unfolded behind them. "Fortunately, you'll be happy to know that the Orange Orange, with its primary access to Castle, is still open, thanks to generous public support," said Sarah, pulling up in back of the yogurt shop.
"The sign said 'closed'," said Carina.
"It would, wouldn't it?" replied Sarah, as they got out of the car. "With everyone locked down in Castle there's no one to open the door."
Carina stared in the window. Retail. Ugh. "You guys even staff the place?"
Sarah smiled. "Hannah handles the assignments. Each week she totals up the number of rules broken or protocols violated, and the worst offender is assigned to counter duty."
"They had a one hundred twenty seven percent performance improvement in the first month."
"Exactly." Sarah flipped up a secret decorative stone, and pressed her hand against the hidden pad.
The door buzzed, and unlocked. Carina pulled it open. "You're in the system?"
"This was my second cover job here," said Sarah, escorting Frost inside. "Believe me, after the first one I appreciated the upgrade."
"Yeah, you reeked of burnt sausage." Carina pulled the door shut, and felt the locks engage. "But shouldn't your prints have been deleted when you moved back to DC?"
"In any decently run, well-managed CIA substation, yes."
"Lucky for us this is Castle."
"Unlucky for someone," said Frost unexpectedly. "Killing in the line of duty is bad enough, but someone is dead down there who shouldn't be. You ladies might want to remember that."
"Look who's talking," said Sarah, handing the prisoner off to Carina as she walked to the freezer.
"In the illegal arms trade, one generally doesn't have to worry about killing innocents," said Frost calmly.
"Like that makes it better," said Carina, answering since Sarah was busy staring into the retinal scan.
The rear freezer door opened with a gust of fog as warm air met cold. Sarah pulled it all the way. The freezer must have been very cold, she was shivering. "It's showtime."
"Ladies, gentlemen. I am Agent Carina Miller and I am heading up this investigation. Is that clear?"
All eyes turned to the diminutive brunette seated at the head of the table. She looked at Sarah. Sarah shook her head. She nodded her understanding. "It's clear, Agent Miller. How do you plan to proceed?"
Agent Miller turned to her partner, who said, "Hannah" in a soft but clearly audible voice. Not that Carina didn't know who Hannah was, they'd met at Sarah's wedding ceremony, but they didn't want that fact to be obvious.
"My plan, Hannah, is to start at the beginning. In this case that is the body, probably the only thing in the base I can be sure isn't going to lie to me. We are going to secure our prisoner and then check the crime scene. You all will remain here under your own watchful gazes, until I return."
"'Until you return'? What's she gonna be doing?" said one of the agents, pointing at Sarah.
A valid enough question. "We have a mission," said Carina. "My partner is going to leave us all locked in here while she goes to complete it. I expect to have this business all wrapped up by the time she gets back."
"You sound pretty confident," said Hannah.
"I am. Right now all of you are suspects. I expect the body will allow me to cross a few of you off my list, and we'll go from there."
"Wait, why are we all suspects?" asked another man. "We've been here for months," he continued, pointing at some of them. Then he waved at a cluster of younger faces, a blond male, a dark-skinned man with a beard, and a young woman. "We get these new guys and a week later one of them is dead. It don't take no genius to figure out one of them did it."
"Well, you're certainly the non-genius for the job," said Carina. She looked at Hannah. "Be right back."
At the cells, Sarah thumbed open the door and Carina marcher Frost inside, removing the restraints under Sarah's watch. "Sit. Stay."
Frost stayed, but didn't sit. "You realize I have to at least try to escape?"
Naturally Carina expected it, she just didn't expect her prisoner to be quite so blunt about it. Cover or not, Volkoff would certainly expect the attempt, but this was so not the time. "You do and I'll shoot you, Chuck's mother or no. I have enough to do, locked in here with these pinheads." She stepped back and watched Frost sit as Sarah locked the door.
On their way to the crime scene, Sarah asked, "Do you really want me to lock you in?"
Carina looked shocked, as if Sarah had just questioned her courage. "Of course I do. After you add my prints to the system so I can get out again, though."
When they returned to the briefing room, they found an argument going on with full force, only Hannah and another young man still seated where they had been. Hannah was rubbing her head tiredly, but when she noticed Carina she shouted, "Attention on deck!" The two senior agents suddenly came to attention, and the noise level in the room dropped considerably.
Carina looked them all over. "Would you two stand up, please?"
Hannah and the young man stood.
Carina nodded. "Good. You two, with me."
"Why them?" challenged one of the agents, as the designated pair walked behind Carina.
"The victim was tall, the knife went in straight, with the blade vertical, so it would have had to force ribs apart and probably get stuck." She pointed at the two she'd just cleared. "They're too short to make such a wound with the power needed, unless the victim let them bring up a step-ladder first, which I doubt he did. It had to have been one of you."
The remaining five suspects stared at each other.
Suddenly the dark-skinned young man started shouting. "Oh, I get it. Let's blame the swarthy, bearded guy!" He pulled away from the group. "This is just what my face looks like!" He pointed at Sarah. "We can't all look like swimsuit models, you know. Just so typical. Even if she'd been here and she'd done it, you still wouldn't suspect her!"
"Damian, please," said Sarah. "It's not–"
"Save it," he said curtly. "I'm outta here."
As he stalked from the room, Sarah turned to her 'boss.' "Should I go after him?"
"Why bother?" asked Carina. "He seems to have forgotten what 'lockdown' means. He'll be back. You go on and get our guys."
Sarah stuck her hands in her pockets. "Right." She cleared her throat. "Right, um, Hannah, I need a signal tracked. Which one of you–?"
"I'll do it," said her friend.
"Sarah?" said Hannah's voice over the secured channel.
"Go ahead, Hannah."
"We just lost the signal." The car swerved, and Sarah almost missed the next few words. "I analyzed the coordinates. There's a bank near that location, it's possible they went inside."
"He jumped out of a plane to go to a bank?"
"It's the only explanation that makes sense of the loss of signal. Unless he went into the sewers."
Sewer or bank? Sewer or bank? Unfortunately there was only one of her. "I'll check the bank, I think."
And there he was, her wonderful, wonderful husband. Tall, strong, a bit rumpled but who wouldn't be after the day they'd–wow, this was all only one day? Less than a day. Carina was right, I am that bad. "Chuck!"
"Sarah!" said Chuck, before she crashed into him and took his breath away in every possible sense.
"I'm guessing this is the missus you were telling me about," said a man with a strong English accent, after a moment. "It's true what they say, isn't it? True love is felonious. It robs you of the ability to utter a single word. It steals a heart. Truly, Charles, you are to be envied."
Chuck pulled back and gazed into that pair of blue eyes that owned his soul, before Sarah closed them and lay her head on his chest. "Don't I know it." He ran his hands lightly up and down Sarah's back. "Hey, you're trembling."
That wasn't trembling, that was his heartbeat resonating through her. Lub. Dub. Sarah murmured, "I lost you."
Chuck laughed, lightly. "Well, you can't have lost me too bad, since here you are." He turned toward Tuttle, and Sarah opened her eyes. "My Shakespeare-quoting friend is Gregory Tuttle."
"Not Shakespeare, Charles," said Tuttle, in low tones. "It's Jodi Picoult. I've never read any Shakespeare, but please don't noise that about." He looked around, as if expecting the Shakespeare police to arrest him. "It's the accent, you see. Everybody who hears it thinks I should know what comes after 'to be or not to be', and I've never even seen Romeo and Juliet. They'd drum me right out of MI-6 if they knew."
"Well, you're in America now, " said Chuck. "Not knowing what comes after 'to be or not to be' is pretty much a national pastime, so I wouldn't worry about it getting back across the pond." Chuck clapped him on the shoulder. "Your secret is safe with us. It's the least we can do for the man who's going to clear my mother's name."
Tuttle brightened, brandishing his envelope like a sword. "Right you are, Charles! Just as soon as we get to London."
Sarah frowned. "Why London?"
Tuttle opened the envelope and pulled out a triangle-shaped floppy disk. "Frost was paranoid about this information being leaked, so she made me put it onto this. She said the computer was going defunct, so no one would be able to read it except us. MI-6 has the only one I know of, in London."
Chuck took the disk. "This is a disk for a Phalanx XR-12 computer. We don't have to go to London, there's another one right here in LA."
"Where, in a museum?"
Chuck was about to reply when a shotgun blast ripped through the building, turning patrons and tellers alike into a squealing, scurrying mob. Sarah reacted by reflex, tripping her husband and taking him down to the ground behind a desk. He grabbed Tuttle on the way, and they all fell together.
"You're kidding," said Chuck. "A bank robbery? Right now?"
Sarah bristled. "Seems a little coincidental, don't you think?" She had to get Chuck out of here, right now.
"It's not a robbery, Charles," said Tuttle, looking out from behind a low railing. "It's Volkoff's men, and that indestructible woman."
"You're saying they followed us? That they knew where we were all this time?"
"It worked for the Death Star, Charles," said Tuttle. "It's not like we had a tracker-sniffer available to us under all the sheep. They must be after the disk!"
Chuck's eyes narrowed. They can't have it.
Sarah rolled her eyes. "There's five of them, and two of us. With no backup!"
"You do have surprise on your side," pointed out Tuttle.
"I don't think they're just gonna let us walk out the door, Sarah," added Chuck.
Sarah thought fast. They had to save the disk, but they had to do it before the police showed up and slowed their escape to a crawl. "Fine. Follow my lead."
"Fine," said Chuck.
"Fine," said Tuttle, "But I'll stay back here. I'm just a handler."
"Right," said Chuck. "He's just a handler."
"Right," said Sarah. "Get ready."
"That's very sloppy work," said Casey. "Are we sure it isn't a trap?"
"So what if it is?" said Bentley. "You have two Gretas, each of them fully Intersect qualified, without any of Bartowski's…limitations."
"The target's moving live ordnance into a major metropolitan center."
"Bomb disposal is an Intersect skill, I'm sure your friend Chuck could tell you that. The only thing that will have a 'bang' on this mission will be the start of our new Greta program, earlier than even I'd anticipated." While Team Bartowski's career will end without even a whimper.
Too soon. "We need Chuck," said Casey.
"We need the Intersect. Even in Bartowski, it made real operatives like you and my Gretas, second-string players. Now that we've leveled the playing field, Bartowski can go back to the Buy More, where he belongs. Best be off, Colonel. International terrorists don't capture themselves, you know."
Tuttle took the bullet. Sarah called it in as Chuck lay the wounded man on the floor, propped up against a desk.
"Hannah, we've got a man down! Tuttle. He got us the disk but he's been shot. Mobilize the EMTs. We have to go…No, the disk will have to wait, we can't even read it…It's triangular, that's why…it's not like she's going anywhere…We have to get ready for Volkoff."
"…have to go…" muttered Tuttle weakly. "…save Frost…"
"What?" asked Chuck, tucking the triangular disk into his pocket. "Volkoff's coming here?"
Sarah held up a hand, and he stopped talking while she listened. "It's not Volkoff?...All right, what can you tell me about this Pichushkin?...Oh, God." She looked up at Chuck. "Live ordnance." Back down to the phone. "Do you know when or where?...Okay, we're on it. You support Carina, don't let her bold front fool you." She ended the call and stood up. "Dragan Prichushkin is bringing a live bomb of unknown magnitude into the center of the city." Which is not where they were. She started walking toward her rental, making up for its lack of speed as best she could.
Chuck sighed, and touched his pocket. "Sorry, Mom." He ran after his wife.
Behind them, Gregory Tuttle opened his eyes.
A/N2 So this is the end of part one. This episode and the next, between them, will account for four separate canon episodes, scrunched down into two. The four chapters of the next story will be the conclusions to those four episodes.